Governor Lynch, State Health Officials Urge Public To Get Facts About Avian Flu

From The Office of Governor John Lynch

CONCORD - Gov. John Lynch and state health officials are urging the public to remain calm and to learn the facts about avian, or bird, flu in response to the ABC movie, "Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America," which is airing tonight.

To make it easier for the public to get the facts about Avian Flu, the state has set up an Avian Flu Hotline at 1-866-273-6453, and the Department of Health and Human Services has updated its website (www.dhhs.nh.gov) to provide a number of resources about the disease and personal preparedness as well as the State's Pandemic Influenza Plan.
"The State of New Hampshire has made preparing for a possible Avian Flu pandemic a priority by developing a statewide pandemic flu plan, holding a statewide drill last November, and by making sure the state is working together with the federal and local governments to prepare," Gov. Lynch said. "This movie, although portraying a very unlikely scenario, is an opportunity for citizens to learn the real facts about Avian Flu and what steps they can to improve their personal preparedness."

In the film, more than 24 million Americans die from the bird flu, named Influenza A H5N1, in just 18 weeks. In reality, there is no pandemic influenza at this time, nor has H5N1 been identified in the United States. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has estimated that, in a worst-case scenario, two million Americans might die from the disease.
"While the film is a dramatized, fictional account of an influenza pandemic, it does show the need for everyone to prepare for all disasters, whether it is the bird flu, a blizzard or a terrorist event," said DHHS Commissioner John Stephen. "People should not panic. New Hampshire has been planning for pandemic flu since 1999, and has held the first in the nation statewide avian flu drill last November. Even if the bird flu hit tomorrow, we would be far better prepared than this movie suggests."

The Pandemic Preparedness Coordinating Committee, a working group of State, local, private and non-profit officials recently distributed more than $813,000 from the federal government to 24 local sites across New Hampshire to begin local pandemic planning efforts. The funding was part of an initial $100 million federal disbursement for pandemic preparation, with another $250 million to be given out later this year.

"New Hampshire's communities have a great opportunity to begin or refine their regional emergency preparations through these funds, because, ultimately, public health begins at the local level," said Mary Ann Cooney, director of the Division of Public Health Services. "The shared goal of DHHS and Department of Safety is to make certain that all people in New Hampshire know what to do to prepare and prevent - to make sure the events seen in the movie either never take place here in New Hampshire or are significantly minimized."